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Mark Rivera, Customer Retention Manager and CJIS Security Compliance Officer with Vigilant Solutions, served for sixteen years with the Maryland State Police, retiring at the rank of First Sergeant with thirteen of those years at the supervisory and command level. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Management from The Johns Hopkins University and Secret clearance through the FBI, Baltimore.

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Departments : The Winning Edge

The Rural Officer's Arsenal

When the nearest backup is across the county, you need guns, lots of ammo, and options.

July 10, 2012  |  by Gerard Zlotkowski

Photo courtesy of Gerard Zlotkowski.
Photo courtesy of Gerard Zlotkowski.

Every officer's career includes that moment where the world stopped. It murdered the rest of the innocence you may have had left in your heart before you got on this job. For some of our brethren in the Los Angeles Police Department that "moment" came on Feb. 28, 1997, during the North Hollywood Shootout.

More than 300 officers responded and more than 1,700 rounds were fired between the police and the heavily armed bank robbery suspects, as police pistols and shotguns proved to be no match for the bad guys' armor and full-auto assault weapons. The police won and the suspects lost. But the victory was costly, as both police and civilians were wounded in the battle. Once the smoke cleared, agencies nationwide started adding rifles to their arsenals and strengthening their tactical operations units.

Patrol Rifles

Even before North Hollywood, rifles were essential for rural officers. But not every rural agency permits its officers to carry them. If your department doesn't issue patrol rifles and doesn't allow you to carry your own personal rifles, a conversation with your superiors is in order.

This is not a conversation that you should have in the hallway heading out after roll call. Do it right. Back it up with research in writing and check with surrounding agencies on their policies. Write a position paper on the subject and send it up the proper chain of command.

Even after all of that work, you shouldn't expect miracles. But you should expect a response. A proper response doesn't include: "No. We are not doing it and don't ask again because that won't happen here." A proper response includes guidance that will help you make it happen.

Many large law enforcement agencies have a mix of issued weapons. Smaller agencies do not have to contend with as many specific variables. So it’s easier for them to tailor their arsenals to fit their needs.

Budgets being what they are, issued weapons are less common than they used to be for smaller agencies. But allowing officers to purchase their own rifles and have them checked by a department armorer to comply with department guidelines and standards is almost a no-cost option for a department. This sets standards while still maintaining consistency.

Smaller departments have smaller budgets, so creativity is a real necessity. But all that aside, there are some basics to think about when outfitting your department with advanced weapons.

Choosing a Rifle

Intermediate level weapons will suit most purposes. You have the advantage of high round capacity in the AR platform of rifles. And when you are a long way away from the nearest backup like most rural officers, a high round count is something to be desired. It can keep you in the fight longer and tip the odds in your favor.

Another great thing about the AR platform is that it is almost infinitely customizable to meet your needs. Manufacturers make so many accessories for the AR that you have every option for outfitting it under the sun. The AR is also well-suited for rural law enforcement because it works very as well as an animal control rifle from a distance.

At my agency we use select-fire weapons, and we operate and train in full-auto mode. Our preferred AR ammo is the 5.56mm NATO cartridge, specifically, the M193 round. But my advice is to test different brands and bullet weights at various distances to see what works best in your department or personal firearms. We swapped out all of the metal magazines as well, replacing them with Magpul PMags.

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